By Bakary Ceesay
The American government through its Department of Justice has filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking the forfeiture of a Maryland property acquired with approximately $3,500,000 by former Preident Yahya Jammeh, through a trust set up by his wife, Zineb Jammeh.
According the US DoJ website, the complaint is that Yahya Jammeh ‘corruptly’ obtained millions of dollars through the embezzlement of public funds and the solicitation of bribes from businesses seeking to obtain monopoly rights over various sectors of the Gambian economy.
“The complaint further alleges that Yahya Jammeh conspired with his family members and close associates to utilize a host of shell companies and overseas trusts to launder his corrupt proceeds throughout the world, including through the purchase of a multimillion-dollar mansion in Potomac, Maryland, which the United States seeks to forfeit through the filing of the civil forfeiture complaint,” the news release on the US DoJ website said.
The news release then quoted Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt as saying: “Yahya Jammeh is a former president of The Gambia who allegedly plundered hundreds of millions of dollars from his country and laundered part of those funds to corruptly acquire real estate in the United States.
“Our action today highlights the tireless work of the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Initiative and their global law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system and recover the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials.”
It then quoted U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland: “Ex-Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and his wife thought that they could hide funds stolen from the Gambian people by buying a mansion in Potomac, Maryland. This action demonstrates that the United States will not allow criminals to profit from their crimes and will seek justice for crime victims both here and abroad.”
Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), according to the news release: “The seizure of this property is just another example of our continued efforts to protect the U.S. financial infrastructure by denying a safe haven for foreign kleptocrats. HSI will not tolerate our country being used by foreign officials to hide their corrupt activities and launder their illicit proceeds.”
The news release continued: “The investigation was conducted by HSI’s Illicit Proceeds and Foreign Corruption Group in Miami, with the assistance of the HSI Office of the Special Agent in Charge for Baltimore and the HSI Attaché Office in Dakar. HSI established this group in 2003 to conduct investigations into the laundering of proceeds emanating from foreign public corruption, bribery and embezzlement. HSI’s goal is to prevent foreign-derived, ill-gotten gains from entering the U.S. financial infrastructure.
“The case is being handled by Trial Attorneys Steven Parker and Kaycee Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Wine for the District of Maryland. Substantial assistance was provided by the government of The Gambia and Michael Quinley of the Criminal Division’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training.
“HSI Miami Illicit Proceeds and Foreign Corruption Investigations Group was established in 2003 to target corrupt foreign officials around the world that attempt to utilize U.S. financial institutions to launder illicit funds. Since inception, the group has seized over $500 million in ill-gotten gains traced to foreign corruption. To report suspicious activity, reach out to your local HSI office or call 1-866-347-2423.
“The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.
“A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation that money or property was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. These allegations are not proven until a court awards judgment in favor of the United States.”